Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said that it was time to convert Istanbul's landmark Hagia Sophia into a mosque, adding that it as a “very big mistake” when it was once turned into a museum.
"Hagia Sophia will not be called a museum. It will be taken out of that status. We will call Hagia Sophia a mosque," Erdogan told A Haber television during an interview.
"Those who come to Hagia Sophia will visit Hagia Sophia mosque," he said.
"We think the time has come to take such a step, given there is a demand" from the Turkish people, he said.
Asked about the criticism that such a move would draw, Erdogan said: "There are attacks targeting Al-Aqsa Mosque," referring to the compound in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
"Those who remain silent on this cannot dare to give advice to us on [Hagia Sophia]," he added.
Hagia Sophia was one of the greatest Christian cathedrals of the Middle Ages, later converted into an imperial mosque in 1453 by the Ottoman Empire, and into a museum in 1935.